Wonderfully Wilma

Someone very special is celebrating a milestone birthday!

When I think back on my childhood, so many of my favorite memories include my grandmother. Wilma — Gram — is such a patient, funny and loving person . . . impossible to sum up in a few hundred words, but I’ll try.

After moving north early in their marriage, my parents made the decision to return to Waldorf so we’d grow up near our extended family. My sister, cousin Ciara and I spent summers (and many school day afternoons) at my grandparents’ house, which became as familiar to me as my own. Their home in St. Charles is the backdrop of so many classic stories — stories my sister and I still tell, and always will.

Our mom’s old bedroom felt magical. We were enamored with its pink carpet, poster bed and tall dressers stuffed with untold treasures. While my aunt’s former room became my grandfather’s office, Mom’s stayed on as the “guest room” where all the grandkids eventually piled in to sleep on summer nights. Katie and I would pluck old novels from the built-in bookshelves, running our fingers over the pages. I remember an old Dr. Seuss book and a collection of spooky stories that seemed to change every time we opened it.

That time of my life is painted with bold strokes: getting tacos for lunch on Grandpa’s day off, which granted Gram a much-deserved break from the cousin lunch rush; watching “I Love Lucy” over ice cream sundaes in special red dishes; listening to Hanson on my Walkman while I helped with yard work on early mornings, when the grass was still dewy and the air thick. Making trips to Super Crown in Waldorf to pick out new chapter books, then losing myself in stories like “Julie of the Wolves” until our parents arrived for dinnertime pickup.

As a longtime daycare provider, my grandmother watched dozens of kids over the years — including her granddaughters. For all the antics and occasional chaos, I don’t remember Gram ever raising her voice. She was so patient. As a mom of two myself, I can’t imagine how she managed everything she did with so many little people running around.

I love my grandmother’s sense of humor, her laughter, her observations. She reads this column faithfully and gives feedback on her favorites. One hot day, Gram pulled out a vintage typewriter and carefully helped me load the paper. I wrote page after page of awkwardly-worded stories featuring tornadoes (and other natural disasters), which she didn’t think was weird enough to comment on. She let me watch the Weather Channel constantly in 1995, because smartphones didn’t exist and I had no Accuweather app to feed my meteorological addiction. She is supportive. Encouraging. Always her daughters’ and granddaughters’ biggest fan.

Adulthood has its special moments, too, with tea room traditions, conversation and family holidays. Our extended crew recently piled inside my grandparents’ house to share Katie’s big news: she and Eric are expecting their second baby in the spring. Watching Oliver, Hadley and Autumn dash around the same halls that my sister and I ran through is surreal. And when we kicked a ball around the backyard together during one visit, I felt a wave of nostalgia so powerful that it made me woozy.

During my first labor, I was delirious with pain and remember begging for relief. Drugs were administered and I began to powerfully hallucinate (“tasting purple,” as the nurse told my husband). In these trippy dreams, I was back at my grandparents’ home, “flying” through Mom’s old bedroom in search of the books I loved as a child. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that when I felt the most vulnerable, I returned to a place where I always felt so safe.

We have you and Grandpa to thank for that, Gram. We are so fortunate to love and be loved by you. I’m proud to be your granddaughter and to have my children know you as their G.G.

Get the big scoop of ice cream and have the happiest of birthdays — you deserve it!

Twitter: @rightmeg